What to do post-State SC Clerkship Forum

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clerkshipinterest

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What to do post-State SC Clerkship

Post by clerkshipinterest » Thu May 12, 2022 11:02 pm

Hi all,

I'm going to be clerking for my home state supreme court (NJ/MA/CA) starting this summer. I went to a t14 and did very well academically. I had a lot of criminal law experience and a fair amount of civil rights litigation exposure as well.

My long-term goals are a bit unclear--I want to work in government, litigate (at least to begin), and do good, either in civil rights, housing, or criminal work. I think I would enjoy being in the city solicitor's office for a progressive and innovative city. I might also enjoy working for a state AG that had similar vibes. I could see myself doing some public defense work (especially if I could do a fair amount of appellate stuff). And I could also be very happy at a civil rights firm. Down the road, I'd hope to be in a position where I could either be doing important affirmative litigation (either as a top person for an AG or at a civil rights firm) and possibly some criminal/capital representation on the side. Maybe, eventually, I'd transition to policy.

I know my interests are all over the place, but I wanted to ask about the first next steps. I've thought about a federal district court clerkship (there are several in my home city/state, and it's pretty common for clerks from the SC to do this afterwards). I've also thought a lot about my home state AG's honors program, which would definitely get me into court doing a variety of things. Lastly, I've thought about firms, either civil rights firms (that probably would want more experience) or even, if there could be a good fit, a big law firm that would give me some good training and have some pro bono opportunities.

Is there any sense that one of these next steps would be best? Or is it just a matter of what feels right?

Thanks.

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Re: What to do post-State SC Clerkship

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 12, 2022 11:27 pm

Don’t do biglaw. The whole “pro bono” thing is highly exaggerated and your pro bono involvement will never make up for the fact that the majority of your time will be spent representing corporations against the little guy (or gal). If you sincerely want to do good, you probably won’t be happy. It’s only really a good option if you’re the sole person supporting multiple dependents or drowning in debt with no way out or something like that, or if you really just want to be rich (which doesn’t sound like you).

All the other options you identify are great, and I would also add a public interest fellowship like Skadden or Equal Justice Works to the mix. Private public interest firms like Sanford Heisler Sharp, Emery Celli, Lieff Cabraser, etc. are especially good options because they pay generous salaries as far as public interest goes. (You typically get into the 150K range as you approach the mid-level years, and there are usually bonuses on top of that.)

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Wild Card

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Re: What to do post-State SC Clerkship

Post by Wild Card » Fri May 13, 2022 1:00 am

You should keep clerking, for circuit and district judges.

State AG and SG are quite selective. New York, at least. They want folks with at least three years of litigation experience.

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Re: What to do post-State SC Clerkship

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 13, 2022 10:21 am

Congrats on the clerkship! A few thoughts for you. I agree with the poster that said big law is likely not the best path for your goals, assuming finances are not a primary driver of your decision-making.

As to a second clerkship versus straight into government service, I think that's a question that your justice can help you with. It's not abundantly clear how a federal trial court clerkship would help advance your standing for appellate work beyond just it being another credential. How many folks in the offices you're interested in have district court clerkships on their resume? That might help you determine how they're valued. Also, in most instances the justices will know the state AG's office quite well and will likely have former clerks working there so they can connect you or at least give you an idea of the caliber of candidates who get hired versus those who don't.

One minor point is that the states you listed are quite different along these lines. The NJ and CA AG offices are substantially more active in the kinds of cases your original post described versus MA. That is the solicitors' offices in the former two states are frequently before SCOTUS and their respective SSCs leading or defending high profile cases. This isn't to diminish the important work of the MA AGs office; it's just to say that NJ and CA are leading the charge as it relates to progressive government work and are two very active offices. Both have honors fellowships in various departments, including the solicitors office. Additionally, there is a fellowship program called public rights project that funds and helps place folks in AG and other government offices to do the type of work it sounds like you're interested in. But again, I'd lean on your justices network a bit to see what you can find, especially because it sounds like you have good grades.

clerkshipinterest

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Re: What to do post-State SC Clerkship

Post by clerkshipinterest » Sat May 14, 2022 1:39 pm

These are all incredibly helpful comments, so thank you. I agree that big law doesn't seem like it'd be good for me at all. I'm not motivated by making lots of money, thankfully do not have much debt to pay off, and want to do actual good. I guess I've been lured into the idea by friends going into big law who are pitching the idea that pro bono is a satisfactory outlet (they probably have been doing this largely to convince themselves).

I guess my first next step is to research people at (1) my state AG and (2) good civil rights firms, who have positions I'd like to have, and identify whether a second clerkship, in federal district court, would be necessary or helpful in getting there. If so, I'll have to home in on that process. If not, then I'll have to come up with a list of positions to apply to elsewhere. And it's certainly true that my justice will be a great resource in researching this.

Thanks again to all!

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lavarman84

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Re: What to do post-State SC Clerkship

Post by lavarman84 » Sun May 15, 2022 4:03 am

Just something to flag for you since you want to do good, city attorneys/solicitors can get stuck with some really shitty cases if you're a progressive who wants to do good, even progressive cities. If you're in the right department at a state AG, that's less likely. Although, with it being the government, it still might happen. Even liberal states take really regressive stances from time to time.

clerkshipinterest

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Re: What to do post-State SC Clerkship

Post by clerkshipinterest » Mon May 16, 2022 8:32 am

^unquestionably. Thanks for that reminder.

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